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Shepherds and Butchers to premiere at Silverskerm Festival

Shepherds and ButchersThe film adaptation Shepherds and Butchers, based on the novel by Chris Marnewick, will be premiered in South Africa at the kykNET Silverskerm festival in Cape Town this week.

The film is directed by Oliver Schmitz and stars Andrea Riseborough, Steve Coogan, Deon Lotz and Eduan van Jaarsveldt.

It was awarded the third place Panorama Audience Award for Fiction Films at the Berlin Film Festival in February – a first for a South African film.

Press release from kykNET:

Earlier this year, veteran director Oliver Schmitz’s Shepherds and Butchers bowled audiences over at the Berlin International Film Festival, where it received the prestigious Panorama Audience Award.

Audiences will now get the chance to see the film at the kykNET Silverskerm festival in Cape Town, which starts on 24 August, 2016. Anant Singh, one of Shepherds and Butchers’ producers, will also be attending this year’s festival for the first time and will be present at the screening of the film on Friday, 26 August.

Shepherds and Butchers is part of a new selection of feature films that has seen the light due to the creative and financial support of M-Net. “We are proud of every single one of these films, which represents a bigger variety of genres. The films have suspenseful storylines and the production value is of the highest quality,” Jan du Plessis, Director: M-Net channels commented. “It is wonderful news that Shepherds and Butchers with its outstanding cast, including the brilliant Steve Coogan and an experienced production crew can screen at the festival with other up and coming new local filmmakers.”

Shepherds and Butchers is inspired by true events and is set against the background of the politically unsettled South Africa of 1987. When Leon Labuschangne (Garion Dowds), a 19-year-old prison warden, commits a cold blooded crime by shooting seven black men at point blank range, the outcome of the lingering court case is obvious for most – that he will get the death penalty.

The human rights activist, John Weber (played by the renowned Steve Coogan from Philomena fame), who stands against the death penalty, is the only defence attorney that is willing to take Labuschagne’s case. He discovers that this young man worked on the gallows where 164 executions took place in one year.

During the court case Weber reveals the traumatic working conditions Labuschagne was exposed to which ultimately lead to his break down.

Andrea Riseborough (the Oscar-winning Birdman), Deon Lotz, (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) Marcel van Heerden, Eduan van Jaarsveldt and Nicola Hanekom also form part of the star studded cast.

Shepherds and Butchers screens on Friday, 26 of August at 4:30 PM in the Rotunda at the kykNET Silwerskerm Festival.

Book details

Book Lounge launch interview with Ishara Maharaj

Ishara Maharaj’s debut novel, Namaste Life, tells the story of a pair of Hindu twins who leave their home in Durban to study in Grahamstown, only to encounter the kind of tragedy that makes parents want to keep their daughters close. The novel launched at the Book Lounge in Cape Town on 20 July 2016 with a discussion that tapped into the novel’s many facets, such as the dark themes of rape, victim-blaming, and the clash between contemporary life and religious belief. Ishara also shared her thoughts about portraying the Durban Hindu community, the role of Hindu mysticism, and the balance of tragedy and celebration that the story maintains. For those who missed the launch, she has written up her responses to the discussion questions.

Namaste Life Book Lounge launch

Image by Leanne Brady

Part of the novel is set in Durban, where you’re originally from, and the twins go to university at Grahamstown, where you studied. Can you tell us a bit about how those influences emerge in the novel?

One of the initial sparks for writing this novel was reading fiction by other local authors. Rayda Jacobs’ Confessions of a Gambler tackled deeply held beliefs within the Cape Muslim community and got me thinking about how very little has been written about the Durban Hindu community in modern-day terms. While the Hindu community remains strong in terms of its Indian roots, many young people like myself left Durban for better employment prospects, and our lives have changed. I wanted to write about those everyday struggles that young people from this community face, and to express that, as South Africans, we all experience similar struggles irrespective of our cultural or religious backgrounds.

Are you at all similar to your protagonists?

The twin girls in Namaste Life represent different aspects of my personality in some sense. Surya is the rebellious party girl; Anjani is gentle, studious and generally curious about the world. Both are confident in their own ways. Surya has the spontaneity most people wish they had, and Anjani grapples with her connection to the universe while living her life on this planet. I like to think of myself as spontaneous at times, but deeply curious about our subconscious and dreams, as well as the mysteries of the universe! Both Surya and Anjani display resilience and authenticity, two traits I certainly value in myself and in others.

Surya is the quintessential party girl: she’s obsessed with her appearance, wears lots of sexy clothing, has quite a reputation for partying and drinking, flirts with lots of guys, etc. Anjani, is the complete opposite: she’s studious, dresses modestly, has no interest in partying, and is quite devout. As a result it almost seems like Surya’s being set up for victim-blaming when she gets raped. She’s the ‘bad girl’ some people picture when they assume that women must somehow be asking for it. In fact, that’s the exact reaction her mother and grandmother have – they believe the rape is Surya’s fault because she was ‘misbehaving’ as usual. How does the novel tackle this issue? How would you like readers to approach it?

When I wrote these scenes in the novel, it was never my intention to set Surya up for victim-blaming. As we know, the notion that the way a woman dresses makes her more prone to be raped is a complete myth, and a ridiculous one at that, given the fact that all kinds of women are raped under varied circumstances. My intention for including a rape in this novel was to get readers to talk about the subject from a healing perspective i.e. what happens to women and their families after a rape? How do we heal? And if a rape occurred in our family circles, how would we deal with it? The reactions from Surya’s mother and grandmother are extremes to create emotional turmoil in readers’ minds. But if Namaste Life can be discussed among just one group of women in South Africa, I would be happy. More specifically, if our young girls in high schools can talk to their mothers and families about rape and sexual assault and how it affects our lives, my aim would have been achieved.

The dialogue captures the nuances of the Durban Indian dialect; if you’re familiar with it, you can really hear the voices as you read. Was it quite a challenge to capture that dialect on the page, or does writing it come naturally to you?

I think my years growing up in Durban has ingrained that dialect in my head, so I definitely heard it as I wrote, but my studies in linguistics and the mechanics of language really helped me to understand it in terms of social register and spelling. It gave me new appreciation for the slang as well. And there was no way to avoid using the dialect – it just makes for a more believable setting and more authentic characters.

In the Durban Hindu community, the women’s lives are characterised by intense scrutiny: the neighbours are always watching and gossiping. Initially there’s an element of humour to it, but after Surya is raped, her mother and grandmother’s reactions are defined, not only by their religious beliefs, but by their concerns about what the neighbours are going to say if they find out that Surya lost her virginity. Much of the tension in the story comes from this problem. Can you tell us about articulating that difficult mother–daughter relationship? Nirmala wants very much to protect her daughters, but her care ends up manifesting as cruelty.

This kind of scrutiny among women is not endemic to the Indian community. We have all heard the phrase ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’. In this case, it’s keeping up with the Harsinghs! Saving face in the community is a traditional facet that is particularly important for the older generations. It comes from a sense of pride in what has been achieved by families, and some women take it to the extreme when they show off about their husbands’ or children’s achievements. The twins’ mother Nirmala is proud of her family’s status within the community and she wants to uphold that at all costs – even to the point of being cruel to her own daughter. We see the complete insignificance of that community status in Surya and Anjani’s lives and belief systems and this produced the tension to stir the emotional pot between mother and daughters.

It’s interesting to compare Nirmala and the grandmother, Nanima, to the twins’ father, Ashok. He’s unfailingly kind and supportive, which makes his character so much more likeable, but it’s worth noting that, as a man in this community, he doesn’t have to worry about the neighbours and the gossip. In fact he only talks about it in relation to how it affects his wife’s health. Would you say he’s the better parent, or does he just have the freedom to be more loving?

I wouldn’t say he’s a better parent, but he certainly has a different parenting style. It goes back to the way mothers are with their sons and the special bonds between fathers and their daughters. In the Indian community, mothers tend to be harder on their daughters to prepare them for the world outside their childhood homes. But fathers want to shield their daughters at all costs and so they tend to be more loving. Ashok represents a slightly different take in this case, as he allows his daughters to go away to Grahamstown for university. This isn’t usually an option in more traditional Indian homes where sons are typically given more freedom than daughters.

Ashok’s a wealthy, successful businessman, but he’s also quite inept as an adult; his wife and mother-in-law do all the work of looking after him at home. There’s a funny scene where he’s packing for a trip, but he and Nirmala aren’t talking to each other, so he can’t ask her where his underwear is kept and has to look through all the drawers until he finds it. Is that typical of the gender dynamics in the community? 

Surprisingly, it is the case within the Indian community and it goes back to the way mothers traditionally raise their sons and daughters. Sons are taken care of to the point where some of them have never cleared the table or washed a plate in their youth. They get married and their wives – those daughters raised to care for the men-folk – take over from their mothers as caregivers rather than partners. Of course, this has changed over the years with modern family dynamic and more women having full-time careers, but I personally know of men in my own generation who have their wives packing and even buying their clothes!

The Hindu gods Ganesh and Parvati are in the background watching the whole story play out and tweaking things here and there, helping the characters out with symbolic dreams. Can you tell us a bit more about the role of Hinduism and the gods in the story?

I did not want the novel to be too preachy, but I wanted readers to get a feel for some Hindu concepts, particularly the connection to dreams as well as the concepts of karma and the cyclical nature of life. I have personally been fascinated by dreams, the subconscious and the connection to higher powers that dreams provide. For example, there is a certain time on the Hindu calendar dedicated to the worship of ancestors, and many Hindus find themselves dreaming of loved ones who have passed on, even without them knowing that it is the time for ancestral remembrance. I also really do feel that life is cyclical in nature – we simply cannot appreciate the good things and good times in our lives without going through some struggles. We also have the power to influence our futures by the actions we take in this time. Karma is not all set in stone! Hinduism and all its mysticism is an inherent part of the Hindu community so I had to refer to it in Namaste Life for a more authentic read. Dreams and the connection to ancestors are part of other cultures in South Africa as well, so this is a great point of conversation between different cultures.

Although the story deals with rape, victim-blaming and religion, it also has a light side with a Bollywood-style romance for Anjani. Why did you choose to juxtapose those two plots?

I suppose I felt that this novel needed to balance out with a great romance. Life is seasonal and we can never suffer forever. Anjani is seen as the supportive sister throughout the novel, but she needed to have her own story. Her romance with Himal and the wedding isn’t actually all Bollywood! Hindu weddings in South Africa do have ceremonies that span three days (I think it can span five days in India!). And the traditional Indian dress is bright with amazing fabrics and costume jewellery, so if you ever attend a wedding in Durban or Joburg, you may feel that you are in a Bollywood movie, but the dress and the celebrations are very much standard practice!

Interview by book blogger and editor Lauren Smith.

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Book details

Play your child healthy: A mini-gathering for parents on the importance of play

Saturday 27 August 2016, 11:00, Bibliophilia, 48 Albert Road, Woodstock

Join us for a brief, fun-filled morning where there is enough space to let the little ones run wild while you listen to three experts on the importance of play. The speeches will be over in 30 minutes.

Suggested programme

11:00 Letting the young ones loose

11:05 Welcome

11:10 Dr Elmarie Malek

Dr Malek is the head of General Paediatric specialist services at Tygerberg Academic Hospital.

She will explain how a baby’s brain develops during pregnancy and why parent interaction and stimulation are critically important. Taking time to be responsive to your baby and playing simple, stimulating games with your child develops important socio-emotional and cognitive skills. The care and stimulation a child receives during the first 1 000 days from conception to being a toddler will build confidence to explore, be curious and learn, and make success at school and employment as an adult much more likely.

11:20 Jacqui Couper

The Precious YearsJacqui is an occupational therapist and author of The Precious Years.

Although child development may seem automatic, each phase is unique and builds on what has gone before. Jacqui explains how to monitor child development, when to ask for expert advice and how to use low-cost material to stimulate your child during the formation of those precious developmental milestones.

The book is ideal for parents with kids between 0 and 3 years. It provides a balanced view on the developmental milestones, helps parents not to panic and teaches us how to play with the little ones.

11:25 Nadia Viljoen

1-2-3 Play to GrowNadia Viljoen is a qualified motor-skills therapist, swimming instructor and the author of 1-2-3 Play to grow, games for motor-skills development.

Ordinary games can help our kids with school-readiness and overcome various obstacles related to development. As a parent we need to make our kids develop both fine and gross motor skills. How? By playing with them!

Nadia’s book is aimed at parents with kids between 2 years and the teen-age years. It employs games like Rotten egg, Darkroom, Hand tennis, I spy, Tip-cat, Red Rover and even Clay-stick! The book also offers information on motor-skill goals for every age group in terms of balance, coordination, spatial orientation, rhythm, swiftness, reaction time and laterality.

11:30 Time for questions

Where?

Bibliophilia, is at 48 Albert Road, Woodstock. We are close to the Old Biscuit Mill, which is a good spot for a family breakfast, and to the Woodstock Brewery which serves a lekker lunch and locally-brewed craft beer.

RSVP: bibliophilia.info@gmail.com or 021 447 1773

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2016 Open Book Festival programme

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There have been a few changes to the 2016 Open Book programme.

The festival takes place from the 7-11 September in Cape Town. Scroll down to see the full programme.

Holding My BreathReacher Said NothingWhat Belongs to YouThe ScatteringBintiYour Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a FistThe Woman Next Door
Sigh The Beloved CountryLike It MattersKoorsDie LaughingBorn on a TuesdayWe Have Now Begun Our Descent

From Open Book:

We’re delighted to announce two additions to the programme:

1. Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan will join us for Open Book this year and we’re equally delighted that Justice Malala will be interviewing the Minister
Thursday 8 September from 10 to 11 AM at the Fugard Theatre. Book tickets here.

2. We’re also excited to announce that American culture and music writer Greg Tate is another last minute addition to the programme. Greg is a writer, musician and producer and the focus of his writing is on African-American music and culture. He is a founding member of the Black Rock Coalition and the leader of Burnt Sugar.
Greg’s event at Open Book is Afropunks – Bongani Madondo and Greg Tate speak to Ntone Edjabe (Chimurenga) about writing black culture on Friday 9 September, 12 to 1 PM, Fugard Annexe. Book tickets here.

Special offer for these two events for this weekend only: For every ticket bought for each of the above two events between today and Sunday (21 Augusut), we’ll give you a free ticket to any other event on the programme (excluding the author dinner and workshops). To get your free tickets, email openbooktickets@gmail.com once you’ve purchased tickets to either of the events above and clearly state which free tickets you require.

The bad news is that Jostein Gaarder (medical reasons) and Fred Khumalo (work related) have had to cancel their appearances at Open Book this year.

All tickets bought for Life and Times of Jostein Gaarder will be automatically refunded by Webtickets.

Also, please note we have added a second ticket type to “Sigh the Beloved Country” (featuring Bongani Madondo, Sindiwe Magona and Bongani Kona) at Guga S’thebe in Langa on Sunday 11 Sept. The cost of this ticket is R80 and includes entrance into the event and transport to the venue and back. Transport will leave the Book Lounge at 1.30 PM.

Alternatively, you can just buy a normal ticket to the event and make your own way there – secure parking is available at the venue. To book either of these ticket types, please click here.

2016 Open Book programme by Books LIVE on Scribd

 
Related stories:

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Everything you need to know about the Abantu Book Festival

Abantu Book Festival

 
The inaugural Abantu Book Festival is taking place in Soweto from the 6-10 December this year.

The festival is the brainchild of Thando Mgqolozana (director) while Panashe Chigumadzi will curate the event this year.

UnimportanceSweet MedicineWe Need New Names

 
The Abantu Book Festival recently announced a partnership with the Goethe-Institut, which will include a Literary Crossroads event featuring NoViolet Bulawayo and Zimbabwean spoken-word poet Cynthia Marangwanda:

The Goethe-Institut is proud to announce its partnership with the Abantu Book Festival which will be taking place in Soweto from the 06-10 of December 2016. Furthermore the December edition of Literary Crossroads will take place at the festival on Saturday, 10th of December 2016 where authors NoViolet Bulawayo and Cynthia Marangwanda will be the featured guests. Make sure you check out http://www.abantubookfestival.co.za/ for more information.

If you would like to contribute to the project, you can do so via PayPal or by emailing molweni@abantubookfestival.co.za.

FIRST APPEAL

The Abantu Book Festival started as a story, a work of fiction posted on Facebook in September 2015, in which author Thando Mgqolozana imagined a decolonised book event as a healing project for black writers and readers.

Now, the dream is about to become reality.

There has never been a mainstream literary festival in South Africa like Abantu. When it kicks off in December 2016 it will be a powerful counter to the status quo – where all meaningful literary activity has been the preserve of privileged readers, mostly in white suburbia.

But to build this new reality we need your help. Some partnerships have been established but we are far from raising the budget we need to make Abantu happen. Various grant-making institutions are considering our proposals, but we’re afraid time’s running out.

So we are asking you to put your hearts and purses into a common purpose to build a new way of being for our literature.

Any amount you can spare, however small, will be used to help establish this platform that will raise the voice of the next generation.

We will deliver a programme that brings readers and writers together in an inspirational and unique environment. We will also collaborate with community groups to present a groundbreaking programme of activities for readers of all ages.

Abantu cannot remain a fantasy.

With thanks,
The Festival Team

The authors and full Abantu Book Festival programme will be announced soon. Watch this space!

 
Related stories:

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The Rosa Parks Library Book Club celebrates Angela Makholwa and Lerato Tshabalala in Soweto

By Thato Rossouw

Angela Makholwa and Lerato Tshabalala

 
The Rosa Parks Library Book Club recently hosted Angela Makholwa and Lerato Tshabalala during the August edition of their monthly book club, held in the library’s Innovation Studio.

The Way I See ItBlack Widow Society

 
The library, which is located at the Ipelegeng Community Centre in White City, Jabavu, Soweto, is one of nine American Spaces run by the US Mission South Africa. It first opened its doors to the South African public in 1976, at the premises of the Orlando YMCA. It was moved to the Ipelegeng Community Centre in 1985.

This month’s event was held in celebration of women writers, and Makholwa and Tshabalala were asked to speak about their journeys in the world of literature.

Lerato Tshabalala

 
Tshabalala, whose debut The Way I See It has had the country speaking ever since its launch, spoke about what her book was really about.

“More than anything the book is about people understanding the plight of us as black people,” she said.

Angela Makholwa, who is the author of three books – and currently working on her fourth – spoke about the need for research grants for South African writers.

“I wish that was something we had. The ability to have the time and the money to go out there and interview our subjects,” she said.

Angela Makholwa

 

The event ended with a Q&A session where the writers answered questions ranging from their thoughts on the role of women in society to their choice of subject matter when writing.

Angela Makholwa, Lerato Tshabalala and the audience

 
Thato Rossouw (@Thato_Rossouw) tweeted live from the event:

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